Canadian Doneil Henry off to a bright start with Whitecaps

Doneil Henry, left, in action for Canada's national team. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Every Thursday/Friday, Sportsnet.ca will chat with Sportsnet 650 radio commentator Dan Riccio about the big stories and issues surrounding the Vancouver Whitecaps.



SN: What stood out to you the most in the Whitecaps’ 2-1 road win over the Colorado Rapids last week?
RICCIO: My biggest takeaway from that match was just how poorly Colorado defended. The Whitecaps were given loads of space, and I give credit to Vancouver for taking full advantage. There have been other matches this season where they let those scoring opportunities slip away from them and they didn’t end up collecting the full three points.

Vancouver put Colorado to the sword early, and hung on to that advantage. The goals have been coming easy for the Whitecaps, and now we will have to see if they can keep building on this performance against more difficult opponents. 

What did you make of Canadian defender Doneil Henry in his debut for Vancouver? Can you see coach Carl Robinson using him more often going forward?
Doneil was fantastic in his debut. The stats jumped off the page – 15 clearances, two tackles, two interceptions, three blocks. He showed the athleticism that earned him a shot in Europe with West Ham United, and a tad more maturity to his game. He completed 85 percent of his passes, and solidified a backline that had conceded nine goals in its previous four matches.

He told us earlier this week on Sportsnet 650 that he isn’t yet 100 percent, but coach Carl Robinson will have a very tough time keeping him out of the lineup if he keeps playing like that. 

Reach Deep
Doneil Henry on his debut: 'I was so excited to play, it's been a long time coming'
June 05 2018

It was another impressive outing for Cristian Techera, who has four goals in his last two games. He also leads the team in scoring this season with six goals. Does the Uruguayan get the credit he deserves? It seems like he’s often been overshadowed during his time with the Whitecaps. Agree or disagree?
I would disagree. I do think Techera holds a good standing with the fan base, and has won over a lot of the doubters that come toward a player of his size. ‘The Bug’ may get overshadowed across the league, but I do believe his coach values him highly. 

The Whitecaps are coming off a strong season, and Techera was a major part of that. He played over 2000 minutes as the Whitecaps nearly claimed top spot in the Western Conference in 2017.

The Uruguayan is now on pace to set a career high in goals and maybe more, so Carl Robinson is going to continue leaning on him. The next step for Techera is to become a star, and continue to be the player that we’ve seen the last two seasons. 

What’s been your impression of Felipe thus far? Has he lived up to expectations since coming to Vancouver as part of that blockbuster trade that sent Tim Parker to the New York Red Bulls just before the season?
I think Felipe’s been a good addition for the Whitecaps. There was a lot of turnover with the team, and it seems he and Efrain Juarez might finally be finding some chemistry in midfield. Again, I don’t want to put too much stock into one game against Colorado, but that was one of the major developments. Felipe and Juarez might be finding something together in the centre of the park.

It’s hard to discount what Felipe has done, and I think it is a big part of why the Whitecaps are scoring so frequently over the last five matches. He is average 2.4 key passes per game, and that puts him in the top-10 across MLS.

The problem is that the Whitecaps have been dreadful defensively. That has people pointing to the departure of Tim Parker and saying this move wasn’t worth it. But if Doneil Henry can erase the memory of Parker, and Felipe continues to be the creator in midfield then the trade will end up being a win for Vancouver. 
 
Is there a one-on-one matchup you’re looking forward to watching on Saturday when Vancouver visits Orlando City?
I know the plaudits have been going elsewhere, but a big reason for the Whitecaps’ offensive outburst has been a slight tactical change to Yordy Reyna’s positioning. The Peruvian has recently been moved into more of a support striker role, and the production has started to come. Two goals and three assists for Reyna since the tactical switch, and the Whitecaps have scored at least twice in each of those matches.

How does Orlando account for the on fire 24-year-old attacker? That will be a major question this week at BC Place as the Whitecaps look to break a streak of three straight draws at home. 

Be sure to listen to Dan Riccio on a daily basis on Sportsnet 650. You can also follow Dan Riccio on Twitter

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